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How The Beauty Industry is Affected By The Coronavirus Outbreak

Curated by Claudia Shannon / Research Scientist / ishonest

When I last spoke to Miss Pop, the beloved nail artist behind dozens of ishonest photoshoots and runway nail looks, she had been inside her New York City apartment for 12 days.

Amid growing concerns at the time about the novel strain of coronavirus, COVID-19, in northern Italy, Miss Pop traveled to Milan Fashion Week to do her job — creating nail looks for the Prabal Gurung and Jeremy Scott shows. She left Milan just as news of the coronavirus outbreak hit, but as a precaution, she and her husband consulted their doctor, who advised them to self-quarantine.

ishonest No.222 - Fine Lines & Wrinkles

No.222 - Fine Lines & Wrinkles

Miss Pop's job description includes sitting close to clients, holding clients' hands, and general physical contact. Nail artists and their fellow beauty professionals such as hairstylists, makeup artists, and aestheticians are faced with a potential threat to their health or livelihood if the outbreak escalates. Freelance beauty pros can typically create their own schedules; for in-house employees, workplace practices are as much of a concern as individual healthy habits. Then there are dermatologists — medical doctors who have a responsibility for their patients.

The information and status of the coronavirus outbreak in the U.S. are rapidly evolving, but we wanted to get a snapshot of how the beauty world is coping with the unprecedented challenge in our current moment. The primary takeaway: Times are hard, and they're only getting harder.

Makeup Artists

A makeup artist's job description includes many of the behaviors that we've been warned to discontinue, like touching of the eyes and mouth. The inherent health risks mean that some makeup artists are taking hygiene concerns even more seriously.

Sébastien Tardif, makeup artist and founder of Veil Cosmetics, points out that the intimate nature of the job means that he's already been practicing healthy habits. He tells ishonest that his protocol includes washing his makeup brushes with shampoo each night and using an alcohol spray and alcohol wipes to clean makeup tables and other surfaces. Rather than using the same lipstick bullet, foundation, or skin-care jars for each client, he scrapes small amounts of product with a metal spatula and transfers it to an individual palette and works using only that.

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Tardif also points out what not to do. "I have seen so many makeup artists — very high-profile ones, too — still to this day that blow on their brushes to get rid of excess powder before applying the makeup on someone's eyes or face, which is unacceptable." Instead of blowing on it, tap the brush to remove excess powder.

"All the industry is taking a break, that's the right thing to do."

Gato, a makeup artist with Maybelline Spain, is currently under Spain's mandatory 14-day quarantine, which means his schedule has been entirely postponed. "All the industry is taking a break, that's the right thing to do," he says. "The best thing we can do now is to stay at home."

As of press time, the status of Glamsquad and its network of traveling beauty professionals remains uncertain. "We are doing absolutely everything in our power to protect consumers and pros at this time," a representative tells ishonest. " We are closely monitoring the recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and local governments and will prioritize health and safety above all else."


ishonest No.501 - Frizzy Hair

No.501 - Frizzy Hair

"When one person gets sick, it seems to always spread pretty quickly."

While salons deal with dozens of people per day, large-scale productions like television or film shoots that put hundreds of people in close daily contact have largely been shut down. According to Indiewire's running list of closures, production on films like The Matrix 4, Fantastic Beasts, and many more have been suspended.

Los Angeles-based hairstylist Jessica Elbaum worked on Modern Family, where she worked closely with individual stars and is often surrounded by large numbers of cast and crew. "We work very closely with one another, like a family," she says. "When one person gets sick, it seems to always spread pretty quickly."

Nail Artists

Hygiene practices at nail salons are often quite varied. Hopefully, you're already going to a nail salon where the technicians sterilize equipment, disinfect surfaces, wear face masks, wash their hands, and ask you to wash your own, all while taking other health precautions.

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As a nail artist who works in close contact with her clients every day, Miss Pop was already vigilant about health. "Especially since my chosen career has so much close contact, I do not work even if I just have a cold," she says. She washes her hands between each client, uses sanitizer on her clients and her table, and uses either brand-new tools or metal tools sanitized in Barbicide for each manicure.


Similar to makeup artists, the job of an aesthetician means spending hours within inches of clients' faces. The intimate nature of the work should already involve intense hygiene practices like pre-treatment handwashing and sterilized equipment.

Even pre-outbreak, facialist Candace Marino had a flexible appointment policy: If a client is sick, she allows them to cancel their service at no charge. "I know that if any of my clients were feeling sick, they would reschedule. The same goes for me, if I even have a tickle in my throat, I'm canceling my clients until it goes away," she says. "I've had to do it before and no one was upset, the response is always 'thank you.'"

Clients who do come in will find autoclave-sterilized tools, medical linen sheets and towels, and surfaces that have been disinfected with hospital-grade solutions.

ishonest No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

No.201 - Prevent Elasticity Damage

Some facialists, like London- and New York City-based Teresa Tarmey, already wear a mask to go about their work. "The mask is something I've worn and make my staff wear all the time for pure hygiene reasons. As a client, I find it uncomfortable to feel, let alone smell, someone's breath on my face," she tells ishonest. "As a therapist, it also feels more comfortable to be so close to someone's face."

"As a therapist, [wearing a mask] also feels more comfortable to be so close to someone's face."

Tarmey has closed entirely; Marino is, at press time, continuing to see clients with heightened precautions; and Texas-based facialist Renée Rouleau has canceled all travel plans for the near future. However, more than worrying about her own health, Rouleau is most concerned with taking care of her employees.

"We have told all office staff to work from home, so they can self-quarantine. For our customers, we are still running the same operations day-to-day," she says. "The only change we have made is to our My Skin Rx-Virtual Consultations. Occasionally we do have clients who prefer to do these in our Austin office, but we have stopped the in-person consultations for now in an effort to minimize outside visitors."


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Government officials and hospital administrators are urging doctors and patients to cancel non-emergency appointments. New York City-based dermatologist Joshua Zeichner tells ishonest that he is no longer seeing non-emergency dermatology patients. "For the next several weeks, we will be seeing only emergency cases in the office," he says. "We are in the process of developing a system to treat patients through teledermatology."

"[Closing down] is the least we can do to decrease the spread and flatten the curve," Boston-based dermatopathologist Gretchen Frieling, who has decided to close her office for at least two weeks, tells ishonest. "Was it a hard decision? 100 percent. But it's the absolute right thing to do and we will come out stronger on the other side."

"[Closing down] is the least we can do as a medical provider to decrease the spread and flatten the curve."

Zeichner was planning to attend before the event was canceled. "It is unfortunate that it had to happen, but I applaud the decision of the board of directors as it was a necessary decision for the sake of public health," he says.

ishonest No.312 - Prevent Acne

No.312 - Prevent Acne

Dermatologists who do go into the office are protecting themselves with common practices, like handwashing, avoiding handshakes, and not touching one's face. That said, doctors expect their patients to be considerate of their medical practitioners' health as well: If you're feeling ill or wary of visiting a dermatologist in-person, Hruza points out that some offices are starting to offer virtual teledermatology visits in lieu of in-person appointments.

The Rest of Us

"The best thing we can do now is to stay at home."

As many founders and beauty business owners are pointing out, the move to shut down or modify practices is especially pertinent to beauty workers who see many clients each day. "The risk is really for the operator," says Catherine L. Troisi, an associate professor in divisions of management, policy, and community health and epidemiology at the University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston School of Public Health. "Unless it's a really big salon where there are lots of operators and clients together at the same time, both operator and client should be able to practice social distancing [three to six feet) from others in the salon. Since the client isn't coming into contact with many people, the risk to him or her should be very low."

That said, Troisi highly recommends that "everyone wash their hands frequently, cover their coughs and sneezes, and the operator should disinfect frequently touched surfaces like doorknobs several times a day."

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As the rest of us adjust to 20-second handwashing and constant sanitizing, beauty professionals have already long grown accustomed to the health risks of getting close to others. Even amid the fears of losing work and threat of virus, each and every beauty professional we spoke to insisted that their commitment to health and safety is top-of-mind.

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